Restaurant owners nervous about latest shutdown

By Kat Bryant

The Daily World

Local restaurant owners have mixed feelings about Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest shutdown in the war against COVID-19.

Under orders that take effect Wednesday, dine-in service is being discontinued at eateries statewide. Take-out and limited outdoor seating is still permitted.

“The word of the day is ‘pivot’!” said Rob Paylor, co-owner of Hoquiam Brewing Co.

Similar measures were taken last spring, and the rules were eased later on as COVID numbers dropped.

But last time, there was a federal safety net.

“When the first (closure) came up, the Democrats and Republicans worked together on it and we got that payroll protection money out. It provided hope and some breathing time,” said Ron Lambert, operations manager of Bennett’s Coastal Restaurants, which has locations in Westport and Ocean Shores.

“I understand Inslee taking the approach he did,” said Lambert. “But there’s no reassurance this time because of Mitch McConnell blocking that bill that’s supposed to help us out. it’s gut-wrenching to know that we don’t have any help.”

Adding to the stress, Lambert noted, is the coastal communities’ heavy reliance on tourist traffic.

“This is a time of year that we normally bleed red,” he said. “We use our reserves from the summer to get through the winter. However, most of us don’t have any reserves from last summer.”

Pub Monte in Montesano received one of the $10,000 county grants last time around, but wasn’t eligible for the federal aid because the pub had opened less than a year before the pandemic hit.

“I think this one’s going to be hard for businesses, and I don’t know how many are going to recover from it,” said owner Brooke Hoiness. “We’ve barely recovered from the last one.”

Hoquiam Brewing Co. is in slightly better shape going into this shutdown. Paylor said he and partner Patrick Durney haven’t been shy about accepting aid, so they’re in decent shape as they face this second round of closures.

“We took advantage of the CARES Act stuff, and some other things came our way,” he said. “And one of the county grants just came through for $10,000 in the last couple weeks.”

Hoquiam Brewing will continue to offer carry-out service during this time. For Thanksgiving, they’re working “family four-packs” of traditional dinners to go.

They also plan to start a couple of projects they had been putting off: a kitchen expansion and a bathroom “fluff and buff.”

“We’re going to try to keep our people as busy as we can, but it’s definitely going to affect them,” said Paylor.

“We’re going to see this flush out more independent restaurateurs, because we can’t sustain this,” said Lambert. “People are just lost right now.”

Still, most agree with the reasons behind the shutdown.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Paylor. “And while it is painful, it’s only temporary, and we’re gonna get through it.”